A Doctor Explains Why Coffee Makes You Poop

ask the poop doctor is a new column from dr. sameer islam, md, a texas-based gastroenterologist who specializes in the diagnosis and treatment of diseases of the gastrointestinal tract. He also hosts segments like Poop Tip Thursday and Let’s Talk About Poop on his YouTube channel. Check out his segment dedicated entirely to this topic of coffee and your gut here. Do you have any questions you would like to submit? Leave it in the comments section below!

why exactly does coffee make you poop?

surprisingly, we don’t actually know why coffee makes you poop. we know that coffee initiates what is known as the “gastrocolic reflex” – this is when your stomach “wakes up” from the coffee and begins to contract. this continues from the stomach to the small intestine and colon, where you will eventually have your bowel movement. the effect is the same in men and women.

Reading: Best coffee to make you poop

The acidity of coffee is thought to also help stimulate the intestines. Coffee, both decaffeinated and caffeinated, contains chlorogenic acid, which causes higher levels of stomach acid and increased production of gastric acid. the general acidity hit causes the stomach to move its contents faster than normal. but once again, it’s not clear which of the hundreds of chemicals found in a cup of coffee are responsible for that boost. Lastly, we know that the beans and oils in coffee play a role in helping you have a bowel movement.

will decaffeinated coffee achieve the same effect?

yes, both decaf and caffeinated coffee will make you poop, but the caffeine in coffee will help you poop more. so if you’re really hoping to get moving, go for the caffeinated cuppa joe.

what does it matter if you add milk or cream to your coffee?

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yes, all that milk and cream can negate some of the positive effects we see in coffee. not to mention the excess calories and sugar that comes with adding those things.

what about other beverages that contain high amounts of caffeine, such as energy drinks?

no, there’s something in the coffee beans and oils that allows you to poop on them. other caffeinated beverages usually do not have the same effect as coffee.

Have there been any noteworthy studies that help explain this connection?

The closest thing we have is a study in 2018 on patients who drink coffee after surgery. Commonly after surgery, the intestines do not want to “wake up” (known as ileus). this can lead to pain, nausea, and constipation. the results of this study showed that consuming coffee improved bowel movement after surgery.

what is the connection between coffee, hormones and gut health?

Active research is currently underway on how coffee can improve overall gut health. Coffee has been shown to improve liver health, decrease risk of colon cancer, improve cognitive function, decrease risk of cardiovascular death (chronic heart failure, myocardial infarction, stroke), type ii diabetes, parkinson’s, etc. more and more studies are being done outside, so stay tuned.

How do conditions like ibs and lactose intolerance play a role?

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patients who have ib may not respond to coffee consumption, especially if they have constipation-predominant ib. On the other end of the spectrum, if you suffer from diarrhea, gerd, heartburn, or lactose issues, sometimes drinking coffee will make those conditions worse. everyone is different when it comes to their response.

if you’re trying to use coffee to poop, like before a race, when should you drink it?

It can be as fast as 10 minutes, but for most people, the peak concentration in the blood occurs after 45 minutes. so if you’re planning a long trip or run, be sure to prepare for the urge to poop soon after drinking it.

how much coffee do you need to achieve the desired effect?

every person is different in terms of how they respond to the effects of coffee. there are many factors involved: your caffeine tolerance, if you have other conditions (irritable bowel syndrome, heartburn), what type of coffee you drink, etc.

however, up to 400 milligrams (mg) of caffeine a day appears to be safe for most healthy adults. That’s about the amount of caffeine in four cups of brewed coffee, 10 cans of cola, or two energy drinks. keep in mind that the actual caffeine content in drinks varies widely, especially among energy drinks.

See also: 10 Best Coffee Beans in Australia: Reviews & Top Picks


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